The independent bookstore industry in the United States has endured many challenging seasons but always returns to thrive. Texas bookstores are no exception. Over 100 independent book shops are spread from El Paso to Lufkin, and from Weslaco to Amarillo. The sustainability of these shops, some of which have operated for about 50 years, might be attributed to the owners’ visions of making them more than a retail shop; they are cultural hubs in their communities.
They help readers find treasured volumes, but also connect them with local and best-selling authors, host events year-round for the community, encourage discussion, and enable patrons to pursue growth, yearly reading challenges, or an expansive at-home library. Whether they sell new books, used, or both, these unique stores have entrenched themselves in local life.
The December 2020 issue of Texasliving highlighted several unique, independent bookstores across the state. When asked for their top five favorite books, here is how the interviewees responded. Though it can be a difficult question for any book lover, enjoy the answers and recommendations of these Texas bibliophiles!
The Wild Detectives | Dallas
“I try to keep an open mind in terms of the genres I read,” Co-Owner Javier Garcia del Moral said, “but when I look back at the end of every year, I realize I read mostly contemporary fiction, most of it foreign, and a good amount of social-related non-fiction.”
Blue Willow Bookshop | Houston
“You cannot ask a bookseller that question,” Owner Valerie Koehler said. But, she did name several of her favorite books at the time of the interview. Koehler also shared that her preferred reading spots are either in her reading chair by the kitchen or on the porch. Here were the owner’s recent favorite books:
- Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore
- Running With Sherman by Chris McDougall
- Five Days Gone by Laura Cumming
- The Love Story of Missy Carmichael by Beth Morrey
Galveston Bookshop | Galveston
“One of my very favorite books about Texas, in general, is The Stein House by Myra Hargrove McIlvain,” Former Owner Sharan Zwick said. “The book follows the German immigrants living in Indianola, Texas, from the 1840s to the 1886 hurricane that wiped the town off the map.” The former owner shared her favorite books about Galveston.
- The Promise by Ann Weisgarber
- Saving Jake by Hardy Roper
- Dickens of a Miracle by Diane Twilley
- Bathing Beauties, Booze, and Bullets by Ellen Mansoor Collier
- Any of the above authors’ books are worth reading.
Murder By The Book | Houston
“My reading taste is widespread, and my favorites change day-to-day,” Owner McKenna Jordan said. “I’ll choose five living authors that have historically been my favorites to introduce to customers over the years.” Here are the five authors Jordan has gravitated toward throughout the years:
- For Megan Abbott books, Jordan recommended starting with The End of Everything. “I would read her writing if she wrote the back of a cereal box,” she said.
- For Kate Atkinson: start with the Jackson Brodie series.
- About Ken Bruen’s Jack Taylor books: “Jack Taylor is the quintessential self-destructive Irish PI,” Jordan said.
- About Daniel Silva: “Israeli spy/art restorer Gabriel Allon is one of all my all-time favorite series characters,” Jordan said. “And Silva’s writing is second to none.”
- About Ace Atkins: “If you like Lee Child and Michael Connelly, you need to be reading Atkins’ Quinn Colson books.”